Tuesday, June 21, 2011

In Defence of Green Lantern (2011)

I generally do not review new movies in this blog, but this is an instance in which I feel I must make an exception. Quite simply, I think Green Lantern (2011), the movie starring Ryan Reynolds as the Emerald Crusader, has not been given its due by critics and fans alike. The movie has received several reviews of which I feel it was quite undeserving.

As a matter of full disclosure, I must confess that I am a fan of the superhero Green Lantern. While I prefer the Green Lantern of the Golden Age of Comics, Alan Scott, I have always been fond of the Green Lantern of the Silver Age, Hal Jordan (the one who's portrayed in the movie) as well. In fact, Green Lantern is my second favourite superhero after Batman. As a child I read everything from the John Broome/Gil Kane stories published before I was born to the later stories by the team of  Denny O'Neil and Neil Adams, and yet others. If anyone was predisposed to be overly critical of this movie, it would be me. After all, when it comes to superhero movies, no one can be more critical than the fans of that particular superhero.

Indeed, while I often said that Green Lantern was the movie to which I was looking forward the most this summer, there was a good part of me that was nervous. The trailers did little to ease my mind, as they concentrated mostly on special effects and humour. I was fully prepared to hate this movie. Fortunately, having seen it, I must say that I would not have to.

By no means is Green Lantern a great film, but by no means is it a bad film either. It is very much a good film, one that I call a "popcorn movie." It may not have much depth, but it succeeds in being entertaining. Green Lantern moves at a good pace and, except for some exposition at the beginning of the film, it is almost never slow. The film's pace is helped greatly by Oscar nominated editor Stuart Baird, who seamlessly cuts between scenes on Oa and on Earth, scenes with Hal Jordan and scenes with Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), without ever losing the viewer in the process. While Green Lantern has some very fine editing, the quality of Martin Campbell's direction is much as it was on his many previous films (GoldenEye, Casino Royale, The Mask of Zorro), good, but nothing remarkable.

As to the cast, I thought for they did a fine job for the most part. I thought Ryan Reynolds made a fine Hal Jordan, a character who requires a lighter touch than Bruce Wayne, Peter Parker, or even Tony Stark (that's Iron Man, for the non-comic book crowd). Similarly, I thought Blake Lively did a good job as Jordan's love interest and boss Carol Ferris. I thought Peter Sarsgaard played Hector Hammond a bit over the top, but then this seems to be the rule in playing supervillains. It certainly did not detract from the movie.

Of course, special effects can sink a superhero film if they are not convincing. The days when audiences would suspend disbelief at a man in a rubber suit are long past. Fortunately, the special effects on Green Lantern are very well done. The CGI is convincing except in instances so few that they do not detract from the movie.

So far I have discussed Green Lantern simply from the perspective of a summer blockbuster, but it must also be kept in mind that it was based on a popular comic book character. Having read many of the early John Broome/Gil Kane stories, I can say that the movie captures the flavour of those stories quite well. There is an even balance between space opera action and earthbound action, and plenty of ring slinging to be had. Oh, the film does depart in some ways from the mythos established in the comic books, but no more than many other comic book films have. My fellow Green Lantern fans will be happy that members of the Green Lantern Corps Tomar Re and Kilowog both appear in the film.

One thing I did find disappointing about the film is that nowhere in the credits is credit given to the creators of Green Lantern: Bill Finger and Martin Nodell, who in creating the Golden Age Green Lantern Alan Scott came up with the very concept of a superhero with a very special ring, and John Broome and Gil Kane, who created the Silver Age Green Lantern Hal Jordan. Quite honestly, DC Comics and Warner Brothers should give creators credit where credit is due.

In the end, when I left the theatre, I felt satisfied and I felt that I got my money's worth. Green Lantern is hardly a great film, but then I was not expecting Watchmen (2009) or The Dark Knight (2008). It certainly was not the catastrophe some critics and even some fans had made it out to be. It was simply a good, popcorn movie to enjoy on a hot summer afternoon, the sort of empty headed, good clean fun one rarely sees in superhero movies these days. It was hardly deserving of the venom so many critics directed towards it.


Lotus Flower said...

I havent seen it yet, but your review I can tell is filled with great admiration for the GL. When I do see it, I will thank you for it.

Mercurie said...

Lotus Flower, given how similar our tastes are, I have no doubt that you will enjoy it. :-)

Anonymous said...

Yes. My take is Green Lantern is the most spiritual of any super hero movie within my memory. I have seen 99% of them. Can anyone correct me here?

This is "Star Wars meets Spiderman, the movie" and again, I think the most spiritual movie about comic book tier characters since the original Star Wars.

A pattern exists with spiritual movies that Green lantern has fallen into, I believe. The more authentically spiritual a movie is, the more bad reviews they get in the mainstream press. Don't believe me? Well you might have to be a fan of spiritual movies to notice this. The latest good spiritual movies to receive bad reviews of damned with faint praise were:
- Adjustment Bureau,
- Knowing with Nick Cage),
- Hereafter (again with Matt Damon)
- Next (Nick Cage again)
- Jumper

Some day someone will put up a site for spiritual movies so we can keep track of, flag them for those looking for them and discuss them.

I agree with you this is a strong effort by martin Campbell who buys into and supports the sci-fi premise 100% and delivers a polished production. To give the critics some credence, about an hour in we need to really care about Hal's arc, from personal fear to embracing his humanity—including his fear. Perhaps we also needed a bit more detail on how choosing the right thing to do overcomes personal fears and is the courageous choice. This is where I think the script needed to be stronger.

Acting – I thought all the supporting cast knocked it out of the park. Actors playing Carol, Sinestro, and Peter Skaarsgard broke new ground in the super-villain department intelligently, appropriately and surprisingly. Thank you, Peter.

Medical Intuitive Bruce Dickson ~ HealingToolbox dot org